Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


For some reason I’ve always wanted to be able to say “I’m in Pittsburgh on business”. Now that I am, I see a town that looks like they were building another Manhattan, but ran out of money about eighty years ago. Lots of unique early twentieth-century architecture and utopian city planning, but also lots of fat-arses standing outside 7-Eleven with food in both hands and the shirt tucked in real high.

It’s now reviving itself through the usual mix of attempted tourism, culture, cappuccino etc.. We’re here for Pittsburgh’s Festival of Australian Art. Hey, it keeps me in work.

The hotel is reminiscent of the one in “The Shining”, with seventeen floors of long identical symmetrical criss-crossing corridors, some with mirrors at the end. Rarely, you catch a flash of heel as someone turns a corner ahead of you – or is it behind you? When the lift doors open, I check for tidal waves of blood before entering. If I see a set of twins I’ll scream.


I’m unable to recommend a U.S. budget airline named JetBlue, whose name tries to copy Virgin Blue and EasyJet, but obviously decided against calling themselves Easy Virgin. Thanks to an improbable series of bungles on their part, my luggage went to Nashville, Tennessee and for the last four days I have been wearing the same clothes I flew in, as my phone and laptop slowly died and I turned into a caveman. They offered me $60, so I bought some fancy underpants at Macy’s.


The show opened last night to a crowd of wealthy arts patrons who seemed desperate to convince eachother they were living the football-hero-marries-prom-queen-at-Harvard-and-moves-to-Stepford life.

I met the heiress to the Heinz baked bean fortune.


This morning I was in Starbucks wondering where to go for brunch when one of my colleagues invited me to come meet the mayor. Next thing I know I’m in a plush Oval Office-style room standing in a group of artists with said mayor in front of T.V. cameras while he reads out a fancy proclamation about Australian art and invites us to make speeches. I tell them about the Starbucks thing but I don’t know if they get it.


Now we’re trying to get to Mexico, but thunderstorms over Houston have grounded all the planes, and it seems that when something goes wrong in the United States of America, everything just falls apart, the downside of a society of competing individuals (think Hurricane Katrina). So great herds of people are left sitting in planes, in lounges, and on floors for 24 hours while all the toilets and drinking fountains sequentially break down and idiots in various uniforms waddle about shouting contradictory instructions.

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